Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan

Eleven year old Jack is as broken by the Depression as the land is. At first glance, it seems the monster drought has weakened him. He's bullied by kids. His father - from whom he longs for connection and approval - is distant and disdainful and his sister, who he clearly loves and wants to save, suffers from dust pneumonia - her cure outside his control.

As this graphic novel unfolds, we witness escalating distress. He's scared by dead snakes nailed to fence posts - an old world charm to scare off agrarian disaster. The drought demon rages; looming large and hateful in the neighbor's barn. The aggression of poor Jack's world comes to a head with a sad killing scene when men set out ot tame the ravages of the land, but instead, ravage the tame.

The significant message in this book is how tragic circumstances, such as the drought, affect not only day to day living, but also family dynamics. The muted drawings capture the bleak emotion of the story. This book is a multiple award winner including the Scott O'Dell Award for historical fiction. Grades 5 and up.
A link to the publisher, Candlewick Press:

Check out the author, Matt Phelan's website:

Phelan, Matt, The Storm in the Barn. Graphic novel illustrated by the author. Somerville, MA : Candlewick Press, 2009. (970-0-763-63618-0)

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